Hardwood floors add character to any room. However, over time, a hardwood floor’s finish can become dull and scratched. When this happens, you may decide your floor needs refinishing, which involves removing the finish and—in some cases—sanding down the floor.
If you’d rather not pay a steep floor refinishing cost, and you are comfortable with taking on tough DIY projects, you have some options. We'll take a closer look at the steps necessary to undertake a hardwood floor refinishing project and when you may want to consider calling in a pro. This article lists the tools and materials you’d need, as well as several tips to help make your floor look new again.
How to Refinish Hardwood Floors: Buffing vs. Sanding
If you want to learn how to refinish wood floors, the first step is to determine which one of the two types of hardwood floors you have: floors constructed entirely of hardwoods and plywood or linoleum floors with a hardwood covering (engineered hardwood). You can sand and refinish hardwood floors about ten times, whereas you can only sand engineered-hardwood floors two or three times.
If scratches and wear only appear on the finish and not in the wood, then buffing is a less expensive and time-consuming option to consider. Buffing involves removing the finish, using sand casting to remove small problem areas, re-staining, and then recoating with a new finish. Unlike sanding, buffing simply addresses the damage to the small surface areas of your floor. You can deal with minor dings and scratches that have only harmed the finish by buffing.
Sanding, on the other hand, is more thorough. This involves removing the finish and using a tool like a drum sander to sand down the entire floor.
Both options are less expensive than calling in a contractor, but when you refinish a floor yourself, it’s easy to make a mistake. You should consider your skill level before you decide how to tackle floor refinishing.
Best Hardwood Floor Refinishing Options
If you decide to go the DIY route, you can use these tips to help plan your job.
When you buff, start by sweeping and vacuuming the floor thoroughly. Then, use a brass wool pad to level out the scratch or ding, and apply a hardwood floor wax with a clean towel. After the floor has thoroughly dried, use a buffing pad to help restore the shiny finish.
Sanding is more involved, as you can use it to remove scratches, divots, and other problems. First, sweep and vacuum, remove any moldings, and then use a sander to remove all the finish and stain from the floors. Sanding will leave dust residue, so you will need to vacuum the area thoroughly once complete. Note that sanding a floor is a labor-intensive job.
Wood Floor Refinishing Tips
Keeping in mind that sanding a hardwood floor is not easy, here are some additional tips on hardwood refinishing. It is also helpful to review online videos for tips on floor refinishing.
- When you prepare the floor for sanding, make sure to inspect for any nails, squeaks, and loose floorboards.
- Perform the ‘water droplet’ test to check if the finish is still intact. If the water sinks down into the wood grain, then you know that the finish has been worn down.
- When you pull up the base molding, make sure to mark each piece with a number so that you can put them back into the right place.
- When you drum sand the floor, make sure to continuously move it in slow, steady patterns. If you let the sander sit in one spot for too long, you can create divots and damage the floor.
- Use an orbital sander to smooth out hard-to-reach corners. An orbital sander can be very hard to control, so practice on scrap wood first. This may be the point at which many decide to call in a pro, but you do have an option to using an orbital sander. You can try using 80 or 100 grit sandpaper and sand hard-to-reach areas by hand.
- Use a buffer machine to screen-sand your floor and a fine grit screening pad to level minor uneven surfaces on your floor.
- When applying wood stain, work in manageable areas, and use paper towels or clean rags to remove excess the stain. Be prepared as this is a messy job.
- When you apply the sealant, bear in mind that water-based polyurethane dries very quickly and is hard to apply smoothly. Oil-based polyurethane generates fumes but dries more slowly, enabling you to apply a smoother finish.
- Make sure your space is well-ventilated at all times while you’re working.
When Should You Call a Pro?
While you may feel the DIY project of rebuffing and sanding floors is doable, refinishing may be the reason to call a pro. Refinishing hardwood floors is not easy. If you either don’t have the time or feel uncomfortable with the step of refinishing floors on your own, try searching “wood floor refinishing near me” to find professionals who specialize in refinishing hardwood floors.
If you’re hiring a professional, check online reviews and speak to clients who have had hardwood refinishing work done.
You can also count on professionals to have the necessary equipment to get the job done and clean up properly. Unlike DIY tools, their equipment will have heavy-duty attachments designed to capture dust and refinish hardwood floors more easily.
How Much Does It Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors?
It can be helpful to type “how much to refinish hardwood floors” into the browser on your phone or laptop, with location settings on, to get an idea on likely costs where you live. Ultimately, it will depend on local contractors, labor costs, and materials costs in your area.
In general, the cost to refinish wood floors per square foot for a rebuff job may be less expensive, but the range for a complete sanding and refinishing job is wider with costs from $4 to $12 per square foot, or more. Be sure to get a couple of bids for the type of work you need done if you decide to hire a pro.
Once you or the pro you decide to hire has completed your floor refinishing project you’ll want to protect the investment you’ve made. We’ve got maintenance tips for your hardwood floors, and to keep those shiny floors shining—while avoiding use of harsh cleaning chemicals—a how-to on making your own hardwood floor cleaner.
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